Cocktail Recipes: Bitters Three Ways
From the classic Manhattan to a cherry-tinged whisky concoction, these bitters-infused drinks are delicious and easy to mix.
As their name suggests, bitters aren’t exactly sweet on the tongue. They’re high-proof infusions of various botanicals (roots, barks, spices), and like vanilla extract, they’re not meant to be drunk alone. Yet despite their name, they don’t actually add bitterness to drinks. “Bitters carry the other flavours of a drink,” explains mixologist Nick Kosevich, co-founder of the American craft bitters company Bittercube. “The bitterness cuts through the citrus and the sugar to expose flavour. Bitters are used like spices in the cocktail world.”
According to Brad Thomas Parsons, author of Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, a Manhattan is an excellent drink for beginning to experiment with bitters, because the flavours come through clearly. It also works well with a wide variety of bitters flavours. Parsons suggests making the cocktail without any bitters, then making it with only Angostura bitters, and then making it with only orange bitters. Finally, try making it with both bitters.
Whether you’ve tried your hand at making your own orange bitters, purchased an exotic variety or prefer to stick to the standard Angostura bitters, here are three cocktails Parsons and Kosevich suggest.
Manhattan, From Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All by Brad Thomas Parsons
2 ounces rye or bourbon
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 dash Angostura bitters or other aromatic bitters
1 dash orange bitters
Garnish: amarena or marasca cherries or a lemon twist
Combine the rye or bourbon, vermouth and bitters in a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir until chilled, then strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass. Garnish with the cherry or lemon twist.
Cudahy Cocktail #2, Created by Bittercube founders Ira Koplowitz and Nick Kosevich
1 3/4 ounce white wheat whiskey
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
1/3 ounce grappa
¼ ounce Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
1 dropper Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla bitters
Garnish: lemon peel and cherry
Combine all ingredients except garnish in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass filled with ice. Shake or stir until chilled, then strain into a mini martini or sidecar glass. Garnish with lemon peel and cherry.
Scarselli Cocktail, Created by Bittercube founders Ira Koplowitz and Nick Kosevich
1 ½ ounce gin
¼ ounce sweet vermouth
½ ounce orange curaçao
½ ounce Campari
1 dropper Bittercube Bolivar bitters
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass filled with ice. Shake or stir until chilled, then strain into a sherry glass.
Food and spirits writer Jeanette Hurt is author of several books, including The Cheeses of California: A Culinary Travel Guide.